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Indiana Senate gives OK to bill banning use of handheld phones by drivers

Governor signals he will approve it
Supreme Court to hear cell phone privacy case
Posted at 5:31 PM, Feb 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-25 17:31:57-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A proposal that would ban motorists from using handheld cellphones on Indiana roads appears on its way to becoming law.

The Indiana Senate voted 43-4 Tuesday in favor of the bill that supporters say is aimed at making roadways safer by combating distracted driving. House members endorsed last month a similar version of the bill that would permit cellphone use only with hands-free or voice-operated technology, except in emergencies.

The measure would broaden the state’s current ban on texting while driving that officials say is unenforceable and doesn’t include actions such as emailing and using Snapchat or other apps.

Republican Sen. Michael Crider of Greenfield, the bill sponsor, said 21 other states with similar laws have seen reductions in the number of crashes.

“This is the right thing to do,” Crider said. “I can’t think of a single phone call that is important enough for anybody to take the chance on taking a life.”

Distracted driving was to blame in at least 860 injury crashes and 48 crashes with deaths across Indiana last year, according to state police.

Republican Sen. Jean Leising of Oldenburg argued the tougher law would unfairly effect those who drive older vehicles without hands-free technology and that the maximum potential $500 fine was excessive.

“We have so much government, folks,” she said. “This is another layer.”

The House must still give final approval to the bill before it goes to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has indicated he will sign it.

Reporter Tom Davies of the Associated Press wrote this story.